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Sunkara writes: "Kamala Harris isn't just not leftwing enough to be the Democratic party's nominee, she's also not bold enough to win a presidential election and bring about the change we desperately need."

Sen. Kamala Harris. (photo: Reuters)
Sen. Kamala Harris. (photo: Reuters)

Kamala Harris Might Be Surging - but Her Record Will Soon Catch Up With Her

By Bhaskar Sunkara, Guardian UK

17 July 19

A leftward moving party is hungry for change. Just like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris’ past will prove to be a liability

he first pair of Democratic presidential primary debates showed how wide open the field is. Former vice-president Joe Biden came in with a comfortable lead, but stumbled during the debates and has dropped in the polls since.

California senator Kamala Harris emerged the victor after the debate, confronting Biden on his past chummy relations with segregationist senators and vehement opposition to busing policies meant to integrate public schools. According to one poll, she’s now within two points of him.

Joe Biden had a couple things going for him: he was connected to a popular Obama administration and he is still widely perceived as being electable. For stalwart Democratic voters, preventing a second term for Trump and an ever-rightward moving Republican party is a key priority.

Biden might have stood out with his relatively conservative stances on healthcare, the environment, financial regulations and other issues that the Democratic base cared about – but at least he seemed like a safe bet to take on Trump. But now with the former vice-president crumbling under debate pressure and committing a seemingly endless string of gaffes, his electability may now be in question.

The Biden team is constantly talking about “Obama-Biden” accomplishments, trying to inexorably tie him to the first black president’s legacy, but the more people find out about his own record, the more they’re turned off by it. The same will be true of Kamala Harris, a candidate who says all the right things on the debate stage, is surging in the polls, but will soon find out that positive attention may soon turn into negative scrutiny.

Harris is talking about financial industry abuses, but she’s doing fundraisers with a Wells Fargo executive. Though often glibly compared to Obama, Harris’s policy triangulations, donor-base ties, and questionable political past are all reminiscent of Hillary Clinton. Take her stance on what was once seemingly her strongest policy stances. Harris was an initial endorser of Bernie Sanders’s 2017 healthcare bill, which would have set up a Medicare for All, single-payer system. Such a plan would get rid of private insurance middlemen, and improve health outcomes and efficiency across the country. “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on,” she said at a January town hall.

Discussing her mother’s battle with colon cancer, Harris declared that “healthcare should be a right.”

When candidates were asked during the debate whether they would “abolish private insurance in favor of a government-run plan”, she joined Bernie Sanders in raising her hand. That’s all fine and good, a brave stance that could have been followed up with an explanation telling millions of curious Americans that they can still keep seeing their regular doctors, only in our future universal healthcare system they no longer will have to deal with insurance companies and the accompanying hefty deductible and premium payments.

Instead, she beat a hasty retreat. The morning after the debate, she said she had misunderstood the question and certainly believed the private insurance would continue to play a role providing supplementary coverage. In other words, she would keep around the same companies responsible for our failed healthcare system and allow them to rally their forces to undermine a Medicare for All plan. (Most Americans favor getting rid of private insurance, when told they can keep their doctors.)

It’s no wonder that likely Democratic voters see Bernie Sanders as the best candidate to handle health policy – agree or disagree, he’s consistent, and has been standing firm for single-payer as others vacillate. Why trust newcomers to progressive stances over someone who has been saying the same thing for decades?

Part of Harris’s dilemma must stem from the fact that she sees that her party’s voters are moving leftward, and sees Biden’s centrist vulnerabilities, but is at the same time reliant on far-from-progressive campaign donors. A recent New York Times headline captures the situation well: “Wall Street Donors Are Swooning for Mayor Pete. (And They Like Biden and Harris, Too.)”

Harris is talking about financial industry abuses, but she’s doing fundraisers with a Wells Fargo executive, Miguel Bustos, implicated in the company’s fake accounts scandal. When it comes time to take on big banking interests, is it unreasonable to assume that she’ll be less willing to challenge the sector than, say, Senator Warren?

And let’s not forget about racial justice, an issue Harris expertly used to contest Biden’s record. But what will happen when people start to pay closer attention to her history as California attorney general. Harris can talk about her past as a young black girl who personally benefited from school integration. But what about the young black people she sent to prison for drug violations? What about the poor mothers trying to get by in a society that gives them no support that Harris threatened to jail and fine if their kids didn’t show up on time to school?

Some political evolutions are genuine, and Harris’s “law-and-order” past wasn’t out of place in the Democratic party at the time. But that old wisdom is now being called into question. It’s hard to imagine that a party tacking to the left in an increasingly polarized country is about to elect a criminal prosecutor as its nominee.

For now, Sanders is still among the frontrunners but has some ground to make up. His debate performance was mediocre, and he needs to appeal better to older voters still in the Biden camp. But by having a record that matches his rhetoric and by avoiding monied interests, he’s showing that campaigns can be run on a very different basis than Harris is running hers.

Bernie Sanders raised $24m in the second quarter of 2019. The workers that donated to him the most were teachers. His largest sum came from Walmart workers. That shouldn’t be a surprise – when other candidates were holding lavish fundraisers, Sanders was raising hell at a Walmart shareholder meeting, denouncing the Walton family’s greed and calling for the company to pay a living wage to its employees.

That’s how you break from a stale establishment consensus. That’s how you actually show Americans that you’re different and that you care. That’s the type of angry and earnest politics that can beat President Trump.

Kamala Harris isn’t just not leftwing enough to be the Democratic party’s nominee, she’s also not bold enough to win a presidential election and bring about the change we desperately need.

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+28 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-17 14:26
The most striking thing about Kamala Harris is just how ambitious she is. For her whole career, she seems to have been willing to do whatever more powerful people wanted in order to advance her career. She does not seem to have any deep political or moral principles. It is all about her own career and power.

People like this have been the bane of the democratic party. I don't care about republicans; they can do this all they want. The Clintons were this way and they gathered around them fellow career climbers. These people sell out the voters at any moment if profits them.

There are very different people now running for president. We have a real choice now.

Relevant here is that Harris has hired the law firm Perkins Coie and Mark Elias to represent her campaign. Elias and Perkins Coie served this same role for the Clinton campaign and they contracted Fusion GPS and others for opposition research. The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie $12 million dollars. So far, Harris has paid only $90,000 but they are just getting going with their campaign help.

Perkins Coie is under two investigations by the Federal Elections Commission for violating campaign laws. Why would Harris hire this firm? The answer is clear -- they play dirty and they play to win.

I don't think we need this kind of democrat. This is what we want to be free from.
+33 # librarian1984 2019-07-17 16:18
In 2016 we saw that Bernie is unwilling to take the low road. Fortunately, with such a big field, there will be others willing to attack the perceived front runners.

Also fortunately, there is a good field of alternative journalists not afraid to report on her record either.

One of the silver linings of Hillary's loss was all the oligarch money that got flushed down the metaphorical toilet. I'd love to see it happen again with Biden and Harris, fake progressives.
+39 # librarian1984 2019-07-17 16:40
Sanders' debate 'performance' was fine. He didn't need to squabble or prove anything.

As the field shrinks and he has time to answer questions more fully, voters will see what many of us already know: not only can he beat Trump but as president he'll fight to help the 99%.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-18 05:55
The author above says, "California senator Kamala Harris emerged the victor after the debate," This is the elite media's orthodoxy. I don't think she won the debate at all. I think Sanders won by far. He was the most clear and detailed in his responses to every question. He was clearly head and shoulders above the rest in his thinking about the issues.

The elite media is only interested in the drama and confrontation. They think Harris won because she played the race card on Biden and gave him a good kick in the 'nads. All that is good entertainment but it is really not worth anything.

The media love to see people fight. To them, politics is WWE -- world wrestling entertainment. Too bad the masses of people can't see this about the media and just ignore it.
+9 # chapdrum 2019-07-18 12:07
We can but hope that the DNC won't prepare the ground for the next Hillary (Biden) instead.
+10 # chapdrum 2019-07-17 20:52
Hard to believe that none of her opponents has yet mentioned her failing (as CA A.G.) to file charges against Mnuchin's OneWest Bank.
+1 # forestwalker 2019-07-18 05:57
I suspect Trump is going to clobber the divided, picky, politically meticulous Democrats. None of the candidates look perfect to me. Is anyone? Was Kennedy? Obama? The ones that get closest to perfect (Carter) are the easiest for the red devil to cook and eat with his blow torch of contagious darkness. Perfection is the enemy of the good. I'm worried.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-18 06:40
Who is Kamala Harris. She seems to have some very troubling associations. Take this from TruthDig today --

"WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris bemoaned the influence of the powerful and connected elite last Tuesday when she called on top Justice Department officials to recuse themselves from any matter related to Jeffrey Epstein. She said their former law firm’s work on behalf of the financier accused of sexual abuse “calls into question the integrity of our legal system.”

Yet the same day, Harris’ husband headlined a Chicago fundraiser for her presidential campaign that was hosted by six partners of that firm — Kirkland and Ellis, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press."

Harris was bemoaning AG Barr's refusal to recuse himself from the Epstein case because Kirkland, Ellis is his former law firm. But now she's working with Kirkland Ellis.

Kirkland Ellis is the largest lawfirm in the world. It made $3.6 billion last year. Its clients are a rogue's gallery, including Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and it once employed Brett Kavanaugh. Why does Harris want to bring these associations on to herself. As they used to say, "if you sleep with a dog, you get up with fleas."
+7 # dquandle 2019-07-18 20:20
Harris is a tick. An infected tick, infected with plutocratic, savage, and imperial capitalism, bent on inflicting her lethal infection on the American populace.
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-19 18:22
dq -- now we discover that the Pentagon created lymes disease and infected ticks with it in order to use them as a biological weapon. So, it has happened before. It may be happening now. The infection you describe is worse than lymes disease. It kills millions.
+14 # Texas Aggie 2019-07-18 07:37
Don't forget that Mnuchin is now running the Treasury instead of making license plates because Harris declined to indict him despite the urging and arguments from her subordinates.
+9 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-18 14:22
T.A. -- he would not be good at making license plates. This man was born to steal. Harris knows that.
0 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2019-07-20 22:28
As a prosecutor she opposed reopening convictions due to DNA
0 # GreenBee 2019-07-21 06:11
It won't matter unless the Progressives unite behind one candidate and not allow the convention vote to go to the second ballot. If a second ballot happens the oligarchs will get who they want, and at the moment it appears to be Harris.

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